The Accidental Billionaire: Part 5

Below is an excerpt from a novella I’m writing. Here are previous parts:

The story is about someone who wins a billion dollar lottery, and how their life changes as a result. I am publishing about a scene a week, and will eventually release the full story as an ebook.

**

Deedee sat on the couch and slowly ate her usual breakfast, a cup of strawberry yogurt and a banana.

The TV was playing a program on the Powerball. Since that night with Sandy and Cassie, her life had become non-stop lottery gossip: at work with Joao it was speculating who would quit if they won, at home with Cassie it was what trips they’d take and what purses and shoes they’d buy. Cassie in her excitement had even created a shared Amazon wishlist which she added to seemingly every hour. The whole town was abuzz with chatter. Bill was doing more business than he had in years. Grasslight, the local bar, was holding a two-for promo today and people were expected to pack the place as soon as it opened for lunch: It was drawing day.

Last night, even her boyfriend Jackson had mentioned he was gonna buy tickets – but she didn’t think he had the motivation, much less the money. The only person who didn’t seem interested, and never brought it up, was Sandy. She’d made it a point to shut down all Powerball conversation whenever it got going by referencing a seeming laundry list of accidents and mishaps and tragedies minor and major that seems to befall the winners.

[Playing on TV]

Rob: …exciting day. After five days of waiting, we’re finally here at drawing day. Today, someone, somewhere, might win 4 BILLION dollars. Or is it 5?

Phil: Oh, Rob. I think the latest count is 4 and a half billion. More than the entire history of Powerball, ever. In fact I think this is more than all previous Powerballs, combined. And it’s not even over yet, folks! You can still play. You still have 10 hours left. As you can see, the lines just don’t end. People are frantic to get tickets before cutoff! [b-roll of different lines outside convenience stores, supermarkets, ticket vending machines, people fighting and shoving]

Rob: Phil’s right. He’s got his tickets. I’ve got mine. Our producers, the camera guys. Heck, even former President Booker is part of the action! Check out this amazing clip that a viewer sent us:

[Camera cuts to a shaky handheld video of former President Cory Booker. He’s wearing a gray cashmere sweater over a blue collared shirt, and loose fitting dark jeans. He’s standing alone. Behind him is a Powerball kiosk in what appears to be a luxury outdoor shopping mall, perhaps in Palo Alto]

Lady: President Booker, I’m such a big fan. I voted for you. What a surprise to find you here. It looks like you just played the Powerball. [A female voice is behind the camera, which pans left and right. The former president manages to smile as his eyes look around at the crowd slowly gathering]

President: Yes, well, as you know, the presidency doesn’t pay that much, right? And well, we were just out, my wife and I, we were doing a bit of shopping today, and I saw the kiosk – wow, look at that line now – and sorta figured, why not? Why not join in the fun and buy a few tickets for the family?

[Camera cuts back to the studio]

Phil: That was recorded by a shopper a few days ago. And in hindsight, was a real turning point. After President – sorry, former President – Booker was caught on camera outside a Powerball kiosk, the jackpot just went into hyper drive. I mean, we have celebrities now saying they bought tickets, there was this Instagram post of Floyd Mayweather in a strip club raining tickets. It’s even got trending hashtags, like “twoforone”, where you buy two tickets, and give one away. Now that’s some generosity right there! It’s a phenomenon, folks. The first social media lottery. And it all comes to a climax today.

Rob: Now I’ve been doing some calculations, and, and if the lottery is, let’s say $5 billion, let’s say one person wins it ok, let’s call the lucky winner Phil, haha, and let’s say plucky Phil chooses the one time lump payment. So that cuts your winnings down by half, around $3 billion. And then let’s pay the federal and state taxes, which together will be about 20%, because our Phil here is a good proper lawful citizen, so that will leave him with just about two billion in cold, hard cash. Two billion in cash, into Phil’s bank account.

Phil: That lucky bastard.

Rob: The biggest payout in history. One way to put this in perspective: Lonzo Ball, who just signed the most lucrative basketball contract in history, half a billion dollars. The Powerball is TEN TIMES his contract. If you win, you could sign 10 Lonzo Balls! Start your own basketball team!

Phil: Some insane numbers, Rob. Not big, huge. Not huge, borderline insane. In fact, we wanted to share with everyone some ideas of what you could do with the money. So we have Jessica here to give us a special report. Hey Jessica!

Jessica: Hi Phil. Rob. Yeah guys, it’s unprecedented. I’m gonna be watching just like everyone else tonight. Not only is the jackpot breaking records, the audience estimates are too. An expected live audience of almost half a billion people will be watching tonight. Which means the drawing itself will be the most televised event in history, bigger than the World Cup final. Bigger than the Super Bowl. And Rob’s favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence, is doing the drawing.

[Camera cuts back to Phil and Rob; Rob is laughing loudly and says something but there is no audio feed]

Jessica: But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to give you an idea of exactly what you can do with that kind of money. I mean, $2 billion in your pocket is a lot of money, but I don’t think any of us can really grasp what that means in the abstract. So let’s make it very concrete. What can you buy with $2 billion?

[A pastiche of images and short video clips begin to appear on the screen]

Let’s say you want to buy a nice house? For starters the most expensive mansion in the world, a three floor luxury penthouse in the famous Roppongi District of Tokyo, Japan, recently sold for $85 million. The buyer was a reclusive Korean billionaire. Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, Grecian marble toilets, even a 4 car parking garage with a private elevator, and sweeping – simply sweeping – views of the Tokyo skyline from the 92nd floor. And if you win the Powerball, this penthouse could easily be yours. And it would be just a rounding error in your winnings.

…or maybe you want to travel the world? Ok. An around the world plane ticket, first class on Singapore Airlines, would cost around half a million. Let’s say you have a family of 4. That’s $2 million for the 4 of you. So you could do that once a year, for every year of the rest of your life, and you’d still not make a dent in your money. In fact, you could invite your extended family, your childhood friends, and your financial manager along on the ride, and it wouldn’t move the needle!

…or ok, let’s say you’re an investor, and you want to turn those billions into even more? Become the next Warren Buffett? Well, let’s say you took all that money and invested into Bitcoin today, this generation’s gold. Each Bitcoin currently trades at around $55,000. With two billion dollars, you could buy 36 THOUSAND of them. Instantly, you’d become one of the top 20 or 30 Bitcoin holders in the world. Your stash of digital gold will be on par with the known holdings of Fortune 10 companies and the world’s largest hedge funds. You’d have more Bitcoin than France! A Bitcoin baron, like the oil and gold barons of old.

…or perhaps you like fine dining and…

[/TV]

Deedee looked at her watch. 9:15am. Time to head into the office.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 4

Below is an excerpt from a novella I’m writing. Here are parts one, two, three. I am publishing about a scene a week, and will eventually release a pdf or ebook.

The story is about someone who wins a billion dollar lottery, and how their life changes as a result.

**

Deedee walked into the convenience store. The humid and heavy evening air was instantly replaced by the starchy air-conditioned cold. She headed straight to the counter.

“Evening Dee,” the clerk said. A paunchy man in his early 50s, his shoulders and neck sagged after a long shift.

“Hey Bill,” Deedee replied. “Long day?”

“They seem to be gettin that way.”

“Well, I got some money here for Powerball tickets,” she said. She took out Donald’s stack of $20 bills from her purse and spread them on the counter.

“Ok, ok! Business is good, I guess?” He shook his head and began to count the money. “Seems like half the town’s come in to play today.”

She smiled. “It’s Donald’s money.”

“Did he have any numbers in mind? What numbers would you like, hun?”

“You can have the machine pick. No preferences.”

“Sure thing. Let me see that pretty ID of yours.”

Deedee handed over her driver’s license.

Two minutes later, Bill slid a small stack of tickets and a receipt toward Deedee. “Here ya go. That’s 40 tickets right there. I can’t understand why y’all play, but then again.” He looked around his store. “Maybe that’s why I’ll still be here.”

“Shoot! Wait, I’m sorry Bill. Can I get my birthday numbers for one of the tickets? I’m so sorry.”

Bill let out a long sigh. He looked at the computer screen, hit a button, and shook his head. “I’m sorry Dee. The machine already picked your numbers. You can’t get refunds on the Powerball, I’m afraid.”

“Ok,” she sighed. “I’ll buy one more ticket then?” She said. Digging around in her purse, she pulled out $10.

“One and eleven? Sure. I’m sorry about that, hun.” He printed out another ticket and slide the stack toward her. “You want a bag for that?” He softly chuckled.

She smiled as she slid everything on the counter into her purse. A call was coming in from Jackson. She answered as she walked to the door.

“Dee! Wait!”

She turned around. Bill was waving her ID and a $5 bill in the air.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 3

Here are parts one and two. I am publishing a scene roughly once a week.

**

Several people were eating by their desks, chairs turned inwards to form a loose circle, burrito wrappers and tortilla trays spread on the floor. Joao and Deedee strolled over.

“Who wants to be a billionaire,” Joao said in a sing-song voice.

“What you got now,” Changwith asked, trying to talk through a full mouth.

“Powerball! The jackpot’s two and a half bill. Maybe even three now.” Joao handed Lindsay his phone matter of factly, with the lottery app open.

Her eyes widened. On the app, the jackpot ticker was rising rapidly. The default increase was $10, but sometimes it would jump $40, and sometimes $100. “How much is a ticket?” She asked.

“Five bucks,” Deedee said.

“Let me see.” Changwith playfully yanked the phone from Lindsay’s hand and squinted at the number. “H-E-double hockey sticks. I’m in. How much?” He pulled out his wallet.

“Nice!” Joao fist bumped him.

“Fine,” Lindsay shrugged. “If we won, I’d quit in a heartbeat. I feel like everyone would leave.” She looked around, fearful that someone was listening.

“How about like 20 bucks each?” Joao said.

“Works for me,” Changwith said.

“Cash only ok. No PayPal or Venmo or bitcoin or whatever else you wanna try to pay with. Cold hard cash only.”

Deedee walked to the printer and grabbed a sheet of paper. “Give the cash to Joao or me, and we’ll write your name down here. Then you can sign it.”

Changwith took the sheet from Deedee and signed his name with a flourish. He froze as he handed the page back to her.

Donald had walked up. “Hey team! What’re you up to?” He put his hands on Deedee’s shoulders and squeezed. He looked at the sheet of paper.

“Oh, we’re, uh, we uh, playing a game,” Joao said.

“Nice!” Donald looked at each of them in turn.

“The lottery,” Changwith blurted out. “It’s three billion.”

“Three. Billion?” He mouthed the bee sound again, slowly. Then he peered over Deedee’s shoulder at the sheet of paper.

No one spoke.

“We’re doing an office pool,” she finally said, moving away from him as she spoke.

“I love that! So Changwith is the first in? My man!” Donald pulled out his wallet and began rifling through it. “You know what? I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I just buy tickets for the whole office?” He looked at them expectantly.

“Does that complicate things?” Changwith asked.

“We already started,” Deedee added.

But Donald didn’t hear them. “Is $200 good? How many tickets does that get us? Give me a sec. Don’t move.” He trotted to his office and returned with a wad of bills in his hand, licking his fingers as he counted the bills. “Two, four, six…nine, ten. Ten. There we go!” He tossed the $20 bills onto the closest desk – Lindsay’s – with a flourish.

She stared at the money. “Ok, so is this for everyone then?” Lindsay looked around, nonplussed.

“How many tickets does that get us? Is it enough?” Donald checked his watch. “I gotta run. Came back for my laser pointer, actually. Deedee, help me with something?” He turned and walked toward his office, not waiting for her to follow.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 2

Here’s the first part. I plan to publish a scene or two every week. I might combine the below two scenes, since the first one is so short…

**

Deedee arrived late to the office, hungover from the three bottles of wine they somehow finished last night. Cassie slept over until morning and might still be at her apartment. Sandy finally got an Uber around 2am, because her boyfriend wouldn’t stop calling.

Deedee walked briskly to her desk. Donald, her boss and the company president, was already inside his office. His feet were propped on his oversized mahogany desk, the conference phone on speaker. His door was open, so she could hear him as he talked about charts and sales figures and new policies.

She could feel his eyes follow her as she sat down and turned on her old desktop computer. She surveyed their spacious but low ceilinged office space. The two sales guys were on their headsets. Their designer was focused on her huge monitor. The customer support team was the busiest this morning, and she locked eyes with Joao, who gave her a quick wink and smile.

Donald called through his door. “Deedee. Do you have my slides ready?”

She swiveled around in her chair. “For the Kraft meeting?”

“No, the investor pitch.”

“Oh. I…”

“I sent you an email. Need some updates.”

She nodded and began to stand up. Though she wasn’t sure why.

“One more,” he said, lowering his voice slightly but loud enough for those sitting nearby to hear. “It’s almost 10. You should have been here this morning to take notes.”

**

Joao ordered a lemonade and a meatball sandwich and took his number back to their table.

“I’m not hungry,” Deedee said, rubbing her stomach.

He looked at her. “It’s almost one. You’re usually starving by now.”

“I had a muffin earlier.”

“What is wrong with you, girl. Too much fun last night?” Joao grinned.

“The girls were over pretty late, I guess. We drank a buncha wine.”

“Where was my invite?” Joao asked. “You know I love hanging with y’all.” He paused but Deedee didn’t reply. “Anyway, is Donald on his time of the month? That man is not having a good morning. He gets so pissy sometimes.”

“I think he just has too many meetings. And I guess he’s meeting investors now, too, so,” she said.

“Before you got in, Arthur was in his office and they were having like a shouting match. At 9am. Arthur looked like he might quit.”

A waiter came over with Joao’s order on a tray. Joao grabbed his sandwich and stared thoughtfully at it before putting it down. “Oh, you gotta check this out.” He showed her his phone screen.

It was the Powerball ticker. The jackpot: $2,552,812,170.

Deedee blinked hard. “Two billion dollars? Is that right?” She’s mentally counting the digits.

“Try two and a half. It’s gonna be three soon. People are saying it could reach five. Five. Billion. Dollars!” Joao made a weird noise like the combination of a gurgle and screech.

“A billion. I just can’t believe you can win that much money. I mean, the only dream I have is to buy a Birkin bag.”

“Honey, you could buy a whole goddamn store of Birkin bags!” His loud cackle caused nearby customers to look over. “But knowing you, you’d just get more cats.”

“Shut up!” She tried to reach over and slap him.

“Anyhoo, if I won, I’d just take that money and throw a never-ending party.” Joao’s mind began to dream. “An orgy with small mountains of coke. Hotties everywhere. A vodka luge, twinks, goo dancers, the whole works,” he said loudly. Now more people were staring at them.

She covered her eyes in embarrassment.

“So, let’s buy tickets?” He asked after a long silence.

“I think I already am.”

“With the hubby?”

“No, the girls. And he isn’t my husband, stop calling him that!”

“Well, I’m your work husband. And he’s your weed smoking house husband.”

“You’re really on a roll.”

“Only cause you didn’t invite me last night. But anyway, moving on. I have an idea: let’s get the office to play. Let’s do a pool. We can kill an afternoon on it.”

Deedee checked her phone. “Well, he is out for meetings.”

They looked at each other and, as one, stood up and gathered their things.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

The Accidental Billionaire: a $5 billion lottery, a small town in Texas

I’m writing a novella about a collection of people in small-town Texas who play the world’s first $5 billion lottery.

My plan is to publish all of it – maybe 100 to 150 pages – excerpt by excerpt to this blog. Then I’ll edit and package it into a proper ebook.

Here are the very first pages. Please keep in mind that this is a draft, so I expect a fair number of changes to structure, tone, characters, all of that.

**

The girls are in Deedee’s living, laughing and drinking their third bottle of red wine. The space is dominated by a frayed tan couch that an ex-boyfriend left her. No one is sitting on the couch, though. Instead they’re on the floor, gathered around the wooden plank of a coffee table. Around them on the large gray rug are empty wine bottles, glasses, and two boxes of delivery pizza.

“I really thought they paid you more, honey,” Sandy said, looking about. “But at least you keep it clean.”

“The business isn’t doing that well.” Deedee stood up and gathered the disposable plates and napkins. She walked to the kitchen and tossed everything into the garbage chute.

Sandy sniffed the air. “Is it just me, or…?”

Deedee nodded. “Smoking nonstop since his last project ended. Like he’s still in college.”

“His hallway on the third floor was pretty toxic,” Sandy chuckled. “Did he at least save some for us?”

“Oh my god. That reminds me. Remember the date I had this weekend?” Cassie said. “He took me to a nice restaurant, ok. Everything started out pretty good. We sat down, ordered some apps, got a drink order. He’s all smiling and charming, opened doors, the whole bit. Everything was great for once. But then, get this.” She leaned in and lowered her voice. “The food hadn’t even arrived. He pulled these little foil packets from his pocket. And I’m thinking, ok, maybe it’s gum? He opened one, and popped it in his mouth. Starts chewing. Then he hands me the other one, just like, slides it across the table” – she mimics the gesture – “and goes, ‘Wanna get high?’”

Deedee snorted out her wine. “You mean…?”

“Before the food even arrived. This dude wanted to get high!”

“Was it weed? Or something else?” Sandy asked.

Cassie just gave her a look.

“The craziest stuff happens to you,” Sandy said. “So, changing topics. How’s work Dee?”

Deedee sighed. “He’s trying to get another bank loan. So stressed out from it. And then he goes and stresses everyone else out. And I’m the lucky gal who sits right by his door. People talk about quitting all the time. Just about every time he calls me into his office, I get kinda tense cause I’m afraid he’s gonna yell at me or fire me.”

Cassie shook her head, finished her drink, and filled everyone’s glasses. She then grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. “I wanted to show you girls something. Have you been following the lottery?”

“YES! Isn’t it like a billion dollars now?” Deedee asked.

“Try two,” Cassie said. A young reporter is standing outside a blue Walmart. The storefront looks like it hasn’t been properly cleaned in a decade.

Rob: …Phil. This latest drawing was $1.9 billion, and there were no winning tickets. So the next jackpot is projected to be – everyone ready for this? THREE BILLION BUCKS. That’s right: Three. billion. Dollar-es. Let that sink in. In fact, Phil, I might just leave work early to go buy tickets!

Phil: Haha, only if you get some too, alright? We got a deal? You heard him, folks. No winners in this drawing. Next drawing is projected at three billion dollars. Which means that our next Powerball winner could very well become a billionaire overnight. Talk about motivation! And the whole world’s playing. Some lucky person, hopefully right here in Paris, Texas, but maybe in the original Paris, or in Tokyo, Japan or Chicago, Illinois, someone somewhere is gonna buy the winning ticket, and become the first ever lottery billionaire.

Rob: As you can see [the camera pans to his left and we see a long line of people standing along the wall], behind me, these people are already lining up to buy tickets. The drawing is 5 full days away, and people are already lining up! It’s bigger than the Beatles! Bigger than the launch of the new iPhone! [Rob walks over to a brunette in her teens or early 20s, wearing a ribbed top and ripped jeans]. Hi, how are you? What’s your name?

Lisa: Lisa.

Rob: Nice to meet you, now, Lisa. Are you waiting to get Powerball tickets?

Lisa: Our office got a pool.

Rob: A pool! I see, I see. So you’re all buying tickets together. How many of you are in this office pool?

Lisa: Eight.

Rob: And how many will you buy today?

Lisa: Tickets? Like two each. [She holds up some twenties in her hands] We’re gonna pool it together.

Rob: I’m sure you will, I’m sure you will. Remember folks, it’s $5 to play. So $20 bucks gets you 4 tickets.

Cassie turned to the girls. “We’re doing it.”

“No way. Not playing.” Sandy shook her head. “Five dollars, girl. That’s a venti coffee at Starbucks!”

Deedee stroked Ava, her gray Persian cat. “I’ve never played. But three billion. I can’t even grasp how big that is.”

“But even if you win, which isn’t gonna happen. It’s not just fancy flights and spa treatments and shopping sprees.” Sandy took a long sip from her glass. “You remember Roberto? High school Roberto. He got five mil when his uncle died in that freak crash?”

“Roberto! Didn’t he have a boyfriend who was like 20 years older than him?” Cassie laughed.

“Yes, that Roberto. Haha I can’t believe you remember. Anyway after he got the money he got pretty messed up. Got into drugs, a bad crowd. Even wound up in jail for a bit. I’m pretty sure he’s broke now.”

“That’s an inheritance. It’s different from the lottery, Sandy,” Cassie said. “We all know Roberto wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

“I’m just saying: Nothing good happens when you win a lot of money.”

“How about if we win, Deedee will break up with Jackass?” Cassie winked. It was her nickname for her boyfriend Jackson.

Sandy laughed.

Deedee tried to protest but couldn’t. Instead she pulled $20 from her purse and slapped it on the coffee table.

Cassie raised her glass. “Yay! Let’s toast. Come on Sandy. Don’t be cheap. You know you always wanted that black Chanel clutch. If we win you can buy the whole store.”

“I hate both of you,” Sandy said.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.